NPR

Rosa Parks 'Helped Change America,' Obama Says At Statue Dedication

President Obama reached out to touch the statue of civil rights icon Rosa Parks during Wednesday's dedication ceremony in the U.S. Capitol. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., was behind the president. (Reuters /Landov)

With words of high praise from Republicans and Democrats, the nation's leaders on Wednesday dedicated a statue of civil rights icon Rosa Parks — a statue that now stands in the U.S. Capitol "where many fought to prevent a day like this," House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said.

President Obama said of Parks that she was "a seamstress slight in stature but mighty in courage" who lived a life "of dignity and grace."

She "helped change America and change the world," Obama said of the African-American woman who in 1955 refused to move to the back of a segregated bus in Montgomery, Ala., and with that simple act encouraged others to stand up against racial prejudice.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., praised Parks' "quiet strength, pride and dignity." Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said she is a "national hero." Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said those who pass by her statue can "look up and draw strength from [her] stillness."

The president ended his remarks by saying "we do well by placing a statue of her here. ... We can do no greater honor to her memory than to carry forward the power of her principle and [her] courage born of conviction."

According to Boehner's office, this is the first statue of an African-American woman to be placed in the Capitol as part of the National Statuary Hall Collection.

President George W. Bush signed legislation in 2005 that directed Congress to add a statue of Parks to the Capitol's collection.

Parks, who would have turned 100 this month, died in 2005.

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